Fort Worth

Hundreds say they’ll walk out of work, school to protest climate inaction at City Hall

Cities like Fort Worth should do more to cut emissions and waste to curb climate change, according to a group whose members plan to walk out of school and work on Friday to rally at City Hall.

From investing in electric cars and clean energy production to eliminating waste and planting trees, Fort Worth should prioritize the environment, said John MacFarlane, chairman of the Greater Fort Worth Sierra Club. He is helping organize a local version of the Global Climate Strike, an international effort to bring awareness to climate change.

“We’re demanding local leaders take action,” he said.

More than 200 have RSVP’d for Friday’s walkout, which will include an information tent and marches around City Hall.

MacFarlane said the city should expand programs that replace gas vehicles with electric or hybrid cars, similar to Trinity Metro’s DASH bus, use government property for green energy production and encourage contracting with renewable energy companies.

Cities are particularly susceptible to climate-related issues.

Heat Islands are possibly the most notable in the summer time. The annual mean air temperature of a city with 1 million people or more can be 1.8 to 5.4 degrees warmer than rural areas. In the evening the difference can be as high as 22 degrees.

Urban areas are also affected by wetter conditions. A University of Maryland and Texas A&M University study found that a growing number of extreme rainfall events combined with extensive suburban development that worsens flooding have increased urban flooding.

Fort Worth has adopted a number of initiatives aimed at curbing emissions and waste. Among them:

A city goal to reduce city facility electricity consumption by at least 5% per year through 2021.

Nearly 50% of city government buildings, and the largest of its 11.8 million square feet in facilities, have undergone energy- and water-efficiency improvements over the last decade.

Energy recovery efforts at the Village Creek Water Reclamation Facility cut the carbon footprint by an estimated 58,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

The city is finalizing a draft of the Environmental Master Plan, similar to ones adopted or in the works in Austin, Houston, Dallas and San Antonio.

The city’s streetlight maintenance program replaces streetlight fixtures with LEDs. More than 3,400 residential streetlights have already been converted to LED.

In 2012, the city joined the Better Buildings Challenge under the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. With city encouragement, the local partnership had reduced energy use by 16%.

In Texas, and elsewhere, cities are taking up the charge of combating climate change, said Corey Troiani, the DFW program coordinator for the Texas Campaign for the Environment.

Roughly a dozen Texas cities had banned plastic bags, which, along with crowding landfills can be dangerous to livestock, but the Texas Supreme Court struck down the practice saying it was up the state legislature to regulate.

While local efforts to tackle littering and promote recycling are important, Troiani said the focus should be on big polluters.

“It’s so important for us to focus on what can the biggest players — which can be the biggest polluters, frankly — do to clean up thier acts rather than focus on individual acts like picking up litter,” he said. “Those campaigns are important but they’re not enough to address climate change as quickly as wee need to.”

Friday’s climate strike will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Fort Worth City Hall, 200 Texas Street. Groups participating include Greater Fort Worth Sierra Club, Tarrant County Green Party, Tarrant Coalition for Environmental Awareness, Liveable Arlington, Progressive Women of Arlington, DFW Climate Reality Project, Westside Unitarian Universalist Church, and Lambda Tau Zeta at Texas Wesleyan University.

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Luke Ranker covers the intersection of people and government focused on Fort Worth and Tarrant County. He came to Texas from the plains of Kansas, where he wrote about a lot, including government, crime and courts in Topeka. He survived a single winter in Pennsylvania as a breaking news reporter. He can be reached at 817-390-7747 or lranker@star-telegram.com.
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